Nancy Lemann

       This morning I watered my garden. Now that I live in San Diego at the quiet limit of the world, I have a garden of bougainvillea and camellia and gardenia. My friend in L.A. calls it a senseless desert beauty–because nothing was meant to grow here save for chaparral and sagebrush and that sort of thing. Cowboy stuff.
       At first gardening bored me to tears. It still does, though the boredom has gradually lessened. No doubt I’ll end up a fanatical gardener with a Latin flower named after me. But at first I could barely stand to water my plants. Of course, they all died. Then I hired a professional botanist. I had to. I couldn’t bear to be the cause of my garden’s death.
       Now I have to get lawn furniture. I want to get lawn furniture that makes a statement. I keep saying this to people and they stare at me vacantly. It’s not so hard to understand, is it, wanting to get lawn furniture that makes a statement? Is that so terribly cryptic? I don’t think so. All I really mean is that I want to get a set of lawn furniture that goes together, rather than a table here and a chair there and a couch thing from Price Club there, none of which really goes together. I want to get lawn furniture that makes the statement: “I am a lawn furniture set that has my act together because I am supposedly in paradise, in Southern California, and my lifestyle is supposedly paradise, and so I sit here waiting for you to relax quietly here in paradise among the bougainvillea and possibly then you could stop thinking about decline and death every five minutes.” Does that clear it up? Or maybe just lawn furniture that makes the statement: “I am a set of lawn furniture. I wait for you amid the bougainvillea, fabulously. You were able to get a set of lawn furniture, you were able to water your garden, you’re OK. You’re not coming apart at the seams. You can do this. You can do what they expect of you.”
       It is said that the learned people here are horticulturists. I am busy notifying the palms and bougainvillea of my interest, reading biographies of horticulturists, and so on.
       Seeking scholars, I went to a horticulture lecture at Balboa Park. The lecture was filled with horticulture nerds of every age, size, color, and description. The room was bursting. A numbing series of announcements was read out. The Bromeliad Study Group, the Orchid Society, the Bromeliad Society, People for Plants, Plants for People, Exotic Plants Pest Control Society, the Delphinium Society, the Bougainvillea Society, the Palm Society, the Bromeliad Research Society, and a few others.
       The announcements continued. The Floral Association, the Fuchsia Society, Orchid Group, Shell Club, Tropical Fish Society, meeting every second Sunday at 7, and the Turtle & Tortoise Society, meeting studiously every third Wednesday at 7:15. I expect that would be a rollicking group.